How to Get Rid of Indian Meal Moths

Indian Meal Moths are the most common pest found in stored food. They can infest a wide variety of dry foods. These include dry pet food, flour, cereals, spices, soup mixes, grains, pastas, nuts, and bread. The best way to avoid meal moths is with proper food storage. Once an infestation develops, the main steps in getting rid of the bugs include disposing of infested foods followed by cleaning food storage areas.

How to Get Rid of Indian Meal Moths [infographic]

Indian Meal Moth Control

Indian meal moths are the number one pest that infests stored food in the U.S. They are usually brought into a home or business with infested foods. Once they have been brought into a home or business, they can spread to a wide variety of foods. The moths do not tend to come into contact with diseased materials, so they rarely spread disease. But they can ruin food with their webs as well as by infesting foods so that they cannot be eaten without encountering moths.

As their name suggests, the most common foods infested by meal moths are foods you might call “meal”. This includes most grain products. Bread, pasta, hot and cold cereals are all common foods that can house meal moths. These moths can also infest dried foods such as spices, soup mixes, and dried pet food or bird food.

Preventing Infestation

The best way to control meal moths is to prevent them from getting into your food stores in the first place. Meal moths usually get into stored food when they are brought in with infested food. Avoid buying meal moth friendly foods that have broken packaging. Also check dates and don’t purchase or bring into your home or business moth friendly foods that are old or expired. If you don’t let the meal moths in, you are almost sure not to get them. Indian Meal Moths almost never get into food by flying into a home or business or by any other method of infestation.

Following these practices will help prevent meal moths from getting into your home or business if you’re careful. You can also make it harder for them to get into your stored food if you do accidentally bring in an infested product.

Proper Food Storage

There are some methods you can use to avoid a meal moth infestation before it starts. Proper food storage is key. This is important in your home and even more important in businesses that store food. Restaurants, hotels, food retailers and other business that store food should follow strict protocols. When food is stored properly, the risk of meal moth infestation is greatly reduced.

Foods that are attractive to meal moths should be stored in sealed plastic or metal containers. Keeping foods this way makes it very difficult for meal moth larvae to enter stored food. Another good option is to keep these foods in a freezer or refrigerator. Meal moth larvae are generally unable to live in the cold temperatures produced by a refrigerator or freezer. Storing food in a cold environment like that almost guarantees you will not have an ifestation.

Keeping food storage areas clean is also a good practice for keeping meal moths and other pests out of your food storage areas. Even if your food is all properly stored, bits of food that are left around a pantry or other food storage areas can become a perfect meal for meal moth larvae. Food storage is only as good as the space in which it is stored.

Meal Moth Behavior

Indian Meal Moths are considered to have a complete metamorphosis life cycle. They begin as eggs which hatch into larvae (basically caterpillars). From there they enter into a pupal stage in which they encase themselves in a cocoon. Upon exiting the cocoon, the meal moths are mature and have developed wings to fly and other characteristics of the common moth.

The stage at which meal moths do most of their damage is the larval stage. These meal moth “caterpillars” spread throughout an infested food. They only consume a very small amount of the food that they infest. The real issue is not what they eat, but what they leave behind. Larval meal moths produce a silk that can form into haphazard webs. The webs can cover food so that the food is basically ruined.

As adults, the meal moths don’t feed at all. So adult meal moths will not ifest food themselves, but they can leave eggs that will result in a future infestation.

Identifying a Meal Moth infestation

There are two main ways to identify a meal moth infestation. The first is to notice the adult moths. The adult moths tend to rest in dimly lit areas of the home or business during the day and come out only at night. The fly in a zigzag pattern instead of flying ina direct path.

Meal moths may often fly to rooms far away form the original food source, so they are not always identified as meal moths right away. Adult meal moths have a wing span of only about 5/8 of an inch. Often the wings are had to get a good look at. However, the pattern on their wings one way to tell them apart from other household moths. It is not uncommon for adult meal moths to fly into rooms where clothing or other fabric items are stored. Once there, they can be easily be confused with one of several species commonly known as clothes moths.

An Indian Meal Moth has a unique pattern on its wings that helps identify it. Like most moths, its wings are gray. But toward the back half of the wings the color changes to rusty brown or bronze. Adult meal moth sighting are a warning sign to check stored foods for infestation.

Another sign of infestation is finding the larvae. The larval stage is the stage in which meal moths are actually present in your foods. They can feed off a wide variety of food, making them highly adapted to life around humans. Most of the damage from meal moth larvae is not caused by what they eat. Instead, meal moth larvae spin webs as they feed. These webs can cover entire food products. The webs collect fecal matter and dead skin and drop those materials on the food itself.

Treating a Meal Moth Infestation

The treatment for a meal moth infestation is usually pretty simple. First, you need to determine the source of the infestation and remove any infested products. It is important to look outside of just your pantry. Meal moths may persist in other areas if there is any food residue. Check behind appliances for food scraps that could be harboring meal moth larvae. Also make sure to look in any bags that may have had food in them or anywhere else food is stored. If the meal moths larvae are not completely eliminated, they can develop into adult moths and reproduce into more larvae that will perpetuate the infestation.

Once you have identified the sources or sources of the infestation, make sure to remove any products contaminated with meal moths. This will break the lifecycle of the meal moths and reduce or eliminate the number of adults that eventually develop and reproduce. Because meal moth larvae actually consume a pretty small amount of food, it is important to clean the area where the infestation occured to remove any leftover scraps that could have meal moth larvae still feeding in or on them.

After removing contaminated foods and cleaning the food storage (and other infested) areas, it is time to reorganize your stored food so that it is much harder for a meal moth to penetrate. It doesn’t take much. Hard plastic containers are perfect. Metal containers also work. Meal moth larvae can’t get into these containers.

Professional Help

If you are having trouble with meal moths on a regular basis, or just don’t seem to be able to get rid of them, People’s Pest Control can help. We are here to keep your home or business bug free. We kill and prevent ants, spiders, and other unwanted pests, too. So contact People’s Pest Control today to set up your free estimate!

Simply fill in the blanks below or give us a call at 404.480.4038 for your free estimate.